Welcome back to Part II. I was telling you about Laura Meier's great book Good Parents Worry, Great Parents Plan, which focuses upon the special Estate Planning needs of young families with kids. Young Families may not have have a lot of "assets", but they certainly have something worth protecting and providing for. Their kids. Young Families need to have something more than an "Old Person's Estate Plan" with some extra provisions slapped on, like a guardianship provision in a Will. I told you that the unlikely event of something happening to both parents is the equivalent to the "Zombie Apocalypse", the worst case scenario.



In Part I, we talked about your current plan for your kids. That is, if you don't already have a child-focused Estate Plan, by default, you are using the State's plan. Foster Care. Any of your assets that remain after your kids turn 18 get distributed to them in a lump sum, to be spent however they like. Fortunately, we can do better, but it doesn't happen by accident.



What can we do to answer the question "What happens today?" The day something happens, the day both you and your spouse are out of the picture. The day the Zombies attack. A guardianship provison in a Will does not do it, because of the time involved in actually getting a Probate Court to appoint your choice of guardian.



There are two parts to the answer. The first part is in a Young Family focused estate plan. The second part is in your personal family's "Emergency Plan". Let's talk about the estate plan first.



Different states have different ways to address this need for an emergency, immediate appointment of someone to act as the temporary parent for your kids. Some states use a special "Power of Attorney" to give caregiver authority to an "agent" who will care for your children. In Florida, the State has something called a Preneed Guardian For Minor, and is described in Fl. Statute sec. 744.3046. The statute is too long to cite in full here, but it allows you as parents to "nominate" a preneed guardian (and alternates) for both your children and your child's property by a "written declaration". The declaration must be signed by the parent, and attested to by two witnesses. That means it could be a provision in your will but it could be set forth in a separate document as well, like a power of attorney (which in Florida, must be signed, and attested to by two witnesses). The important thing about this statute is that it provides that the Preneed Guardian For Minor "shall assume the duties of guardian immediately upon an adjudication of incapacity of the last surviving parent or the death of the last surviving parent." That means, it goes into effect WITHOUT ANY COURT ORDER. So, your Preneed Guardian does not need to wait for the Probate Court to act. There is a provision requiring the Preneed Guardian to file a petition for confirmation of his or her appointment within 20 days after assuming his or her duties, so there is Court supervision of the appointment.



I take a "belts and suspenders" approach to this, and recommend that an appointment of a Preneed Guardian be included in a Will AND in a power of attorney. The main reason I recommend that is because third parties are more used to seeing a "Power of Attorney" (which is often a much shorter and to the point document) than a Will. School officials and others might not take the time to hunt through a Will looking for a PreNeed Guardian For Minor appointment, but may be more likely to accept a signed, attested power of attorney appointing such a person. I also like to use a power of attorney document because Florida also has another nifty statute, Fl. Statute sec. 743.0645 "Other Persons Who May Consent To Medical Care Or Treatment Of A Minor", which allows you to use a Power of Attorney to allow another person to make medical decisions for your child. My "Childcare Power of Attorney" does both, and specifically cites both statutory provisions.



So, the way this works is your Preneed Guardian is authorized to care for your child (and make medical decisions, if necessary) immediately upon the death of the last surviving parent, without court order, but must obtain the court's "confirmation" by filing a petition within 20 days. That Preneed Guardian may remain in charge of your kids until the Court is able to appoint a permanent guardian, as provided for in your Will. If your best choice for permanent guardian lives out of state, or even more than an hour's drive away, you may wish to appoint someone closer to be your Preneed Guardian.



So that covers the guardianship aspect of things. Following these instructions (preferably with the guidance of competent estate planning counsel!) will enable you to choose who will care for your children and keep them out Foster Care for even a single day. But that is not all. Read on to find out the next step, which brings us back to money. Finally, I will address some things you can do right now, even without having an attorney to assist you.